Program Report: Shafonda Davis of The Durham APS

It wasn’t really my turn to do this write-up, but pressed into service, I’ve now wasted a couple of hours thinking about how to approach it.  I’ve got plenty of material, including the PowerPoint presentations that were used by APS Executive Director Shafonda Davis and Development Director Darlene Fiscus. There’s also a very good Facebook page ( and a great website (

But I sit here looking at the computer screen thinking about the dogs and cats I’ve known. First and foremost is Dusty, the dog I spent more time with under the same roof than any other living thing. Assistant District Governor Joyce McKinney, who was present at the meeting and who works closely with APS, helped Dusty across the “rainbow bridge” just short of his 18th birthday in what seemed more like a priestess administering last rites than being “put down.”

There are three Sams in my history. One was a boyhood tan and white Boxer. My brother rescued a Malamute and gave it to my parents. They also named him Sam and he chewed up every cushion and loose shoe in the house before he became an honored family member. There were a couple of Cocker Spaniels before Sam II. The third Sam, also with some boxer in him belongs to Melissa Mills. Sam and his constant companion, Sarah, both true rescues, spent several weeks with me after Melissa broke her wrist, and we became good friends.

My brother Bill always has several dogs, two or three now depending on which ones you count. But the first one was an abandoned hound who had been hit by a car. A vet amputated the leg and she was smuggled out of the office before she could be euthanized by his sister-in-law, a vet tech. They called her Tinker but I always called her Tripod. She was a great dog and never seemed to miss that rear leg.

There are a lot more dogs I could mention and cats too, but this is not a memoir.  I just wanted to make the point that all these guys were loved and cherished and brought great joy. Many in the club can tell a similar history.

But somewhere between 40 and 50 percent, or more than 2000 of the animals that pass through the APS shelter here in Durham annually, don’t make it out. They never get a real name, they never have a real home. They may never have been not hungry or not scared of humans. They may be sick, or hurt, or just too ugly, but they are not adoptable and must be disposed of, un-mourned.  Most “no kill” shelters, according to Ms. Davis are very selective about the animals they take in, but in Durham, the shelter can’t turn away any animal that is brought in. Strays, surrenders, healthy, sick, wild or just old, they must take them. Ms. Davis made the point very passionately that the most difficult responsibility they have is putting down the animals that nobody wants.

The good news is that we’ve come a long way. Not too many years ago, the number of animals that passed through was almost double. Progress with spay and neuter programs are the most effective way of dealing with the over population of dogs and cats, and they are working.

As you might expect, the shelter can always use help. Ms. Ficus related the many ways this is possible. There’s plenty of information about that on their website. There is also a page about their annual “Walk for the Animals” on Duke’s East Campus coming up on May 20. Information is at

My personal fantasy is that pets reincarnate and the wise thing to do when you lose a wonderful pet, is to wait patiently, and they will show up sooner or later. So, I assume Dusty’s successor is out there somewhere stirring around and I check the APS website periodically to see if he’s among the 100 plus dogs residing in the shelter at any one time. Haven’t seen him yet, if he’s a “him” in this new life, but a few, like this cutie, make me wonder, “Dusty?”

Submitted by Jay Zenner


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